What Watch Should I Buy?`

Friends who hang out with me know I am not shy about sharing my opinions. In the research I have been doing this past month, my belief that you should buy the watch you like (if you can afford it) has been re-affirmed.

Casio Calculator Watch
An all time favourite

For example on a recent holiday to Bali, my sister-in-law Jo, saw a picture of me wearing one of my all-time favourite, daggy watches – A $20 Casio Calculator Watch and made a comment about it on Facebook. I have had at least 2 of these watches in my lifetime and can’t see my self ever not owning one.

So, which watch for you?

I have found that watches in Asia, especially Singapore and Japan, are about 10 – 20% lower than in Australia and the US – if you deal or buy online / overseas.

Dealers prices are understandably much higher than what you could get from buying direct from owners but this is often worth it as the watches would have been serviced and polished and normally come with a guarantee not only of authenticity but also reliability. Wholesale prices i.e. the price dealers pay for used watches at auctions can be about 50% lower than retail prices. I know of one dealer in Sydney whose prices are even higher than most other dealers because he has great marketing and an online presence.

Models which are popular in one country could be unpopular in another and therefore not command as high prices and this is a boon for collectors like us.

A dealer I visit at least once a month has a Tudor Hydronaut for sale for US$1150.00. If you look on ebay these sell in the US for between US$1800.00 – $2000.00

I see the same thing with Submariners and Sea Dwellers. You can pick these up for about US$4500.00 to $4900.00 in Asia but you would be hard pressed to find one for under A$5000.00 anywhere in on line or in Australia and Hong Kong.

About 3 – 5 years ago there were heaps of 60s and 70s Swiss watches for sale at pretty low prices – US$120 and above but you would be hard pressed to find this anymore, anywhere in Asia or the rest of the globe. Because they are a little rarer, demand has decreased instead of increased. Submariners from this era for example has dropped to about US$5500.00 where previously they could fetch as high as $9000.00 – $20,000 or more.

After a little “research” into this strange phenemonem, my conclusion is that there are just too many fakes out there so people have stopped buying these older pieces. I visited one dealer in Singapore on Sunday and all his originals looked tired and need of serious TLC. He did not have any ‘nice’ pieces because he just can’t get his hands on any. Another dealer I know has closed his shop and hired 3 watch makers to just churn out fakes from his home to sell in Europe and Japan!!!

So, if you are in the market, what can you buy?

$10 – $200

The absolute entry level range in mechanical watches. Heaps to chose from – if you are not worried about external condition, resale value and water resistance.

You can pick up some obscure Swiss brands for as low as $50 as well as some nice older Seiko’s.

If you spend closer to $200 you can get some nice watches with a genuine Swiss pedigree or genuine Swiss movements such as:

  • Rado
  • Olma
  • Pagol
  • Garuda
  • Tag Heuer
  • Favre Leuba
  • Sandoz
  • Titus
  • Longines
  • Omega
  • Titoni
  • Tissot
  • and the list goes on…..

Prices have been creeping upwards. For example, this is the first watch that started my watch trading and buying hobby.

Omega 601
1960 Omega Seamaster

`I picked it up for $140.00 and it is a 60’s Omega with a Cal 601 winding movement. I would recommend that you buy a watch that works well and runs as it has been my experience that unfortunately any money you’ll spend on restoration or repair would really be just throwing good money after a bad watch.

$200 – $500

Again, there is so much to choose from – especially on eBay or at an auction.

In this range you can pick up nice, older Omega’s, Longines, Tag Heuer’s, and even Tudors. Of course the closer you spend to $500, the better the condition of the watch.

There are bargains out there but I would strongly recommend that you know a good watch repairer who can service these watches. I can get almost any Swiss watch working again with a 6 month guarantee for less than $100. If you can’t do this, I would think twice about buying in this price range.

$500 – $1000

In this price range, you should be able to pick a fairly decent Swiss watch.

Best buys are pre-owned Longines, Tudors, Mont Blanc’s, Omegas Oris, Breitling’s or TAG in 8/10 condition.

Don’t buy anything with a discoloured dial or hands, chipped or scratched crystals or worn / damaged bezel as these are costly to replace. Tag Heuer Links are also expensive bracelets to repair or replace and very often costs more than a complete watch in working condition.

NOTE :Don’t expect a watch with pedigree i.e. box or papers

$1000 – $2000

There are literally heaps of bargains in this price range and there is plenty of quality stock on offer.

Best buys in pre-loved:  Omega Seamaster and Speedmaster in 8/ 10 or 9 / 10 condition and older, mechanically sound and well presented Rolex Stainless Steel and ‘Half-Gold’ in 9 / 10 condition can be found if you are not in a hurry.

Watches in this range and up are reliable and if well cared for will last forever.

$2000 – $3000

You can get ‘almost any’ popular watch model you desire save for that favourite Rolex Submariner. This is the realm of the ‘wearer’s market’ – you are buying a watch to wear, enjoy and be proud of.

If you know any watch dealers you can even get your hands on some great demonstrater’s or last year’s model, but still in like new condition.

This is Omega’s territory: Moon watches, limited editions, Seamaster chronographs, smart Aqua Terras and even Planet Ocean’s. Dress, casual, sporty – plenty to chose from. A kind of stuff you would wear in office or with an Hugo Boss suit.

If you are not concerned about resale value then you can also explore other options like Baume and Mercier, TAG Carrera, Chopard, Mont Blanc, Fortis.

Remember, you are taking advantage of other people’s extravagence (previous owner made a wrong pick – wrong size or model, or simply wants to upgrade too quickly and need your liquid funds) so make sure to take as much advantage as you possibly can!

Avoid all battery operated and gold plated stock!

$3000 – $5000

Heaven for a novice collector. You can almost have any prestige (not luxury) watch on the market today. Submariners, GMT-Masters and Panerai’s are now within reach!

Each and every watch you try on feels good and appears has excellent value for money! Unfortunately for an enthusiastic and aspiring buyer, this is probably the most difficult price range as  you are faced with a paradox – whilst you have doubled your budget it looks like your choices have been reduced.

Talk to dealers (or me) or read magazines about the choices you want to make.

$5000 – $10000

For those of us in this price range, life is good again.

Finally, everything makes sense: You get what you pay for and you would generally be the more experience novice collector. You know for example the difference between in-house movement and ETA,

Patek Philippe, Jaeger LeCoultre, Rolex Daytona’s and rarer morsels like Ulysse Nardin, Corum and IWC are all available in this range.

When I got to this stage of watch collecting, in the last few months, I realised that my 20 plus Omega’s and Datejusts along with the 20 or so other watches I wear regularly (i.e. once every 2 – 3 months) is not really a serious collection.

$10 – $20K

We are now talking serious money.

Best buy: Like new condition Rolex President. A mint condition Patek. IWC Big Pilot and anything Lange if you can find it

I have found that there is hardly any competition for fine stock in this price range so if we have the cash, we are king and most dealers will bend backwards for your business as there are few buyers at this price range

$20K – and above

I haven’t reached that level yet so I’ll stop here 🙂

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